This past week, students at Five Acre School learned what it takes for a puppy to become a service dog.
Sharon Smith of Sundance Shepherds in Port Angeles brought eight 6-week-old German shepherd puppies to the school for students to play with and hold.
It was the first time the pups had been near children and Smith said bringing them to the school increased their experience, as service dogs encounter new things everyday with their owners.
Smith plans to donate one of the dogs to Positive Partners Assistance Dogs in Hailey, Idaho.
Through the next two years, Fran Jewell, executive and training director for the program, will train a puppy to assist a partially paralyzed woman who was struck by a car.
“We have a fairly good idea which of Sharon’s dogs would be a good fit,” Jewell said.
Guide dog program Jewell and her service dog Evandar visited the school later in the week to teach the students about the basics of training a service dog and how people should approach them. Most of the students knew they should ask before petting any service dog.
Jewell has trained service dogs for about 20 years in search and rescue, pet therapy and for competitions.
“That’s why I took my dogs to Fran, because I’m hoping for an awesome prospect for a service dog in the litter,” Smith said.
Jewell met with each puppy for about 20 minutes, testing reactions to loud noises, their bravery and if they can handle being a follower.
Smith said the chosen pup will be a male because they grow to be larger.
In preparation for this test, Smith performed early neurological stimulation, ENS, on the puppies to boost their motor senses and immune system.
Three days after they were born, she would hold each of them in five unnatural positions for a few seconds before putting them back with their mother. This happened once a day for 13 days.
Jewell said costs for training a service dog range from $25,000-$32,000. She trains dogs to help those with low to no mobility, hearing and vision and general guide dogs.
For more information on Positive Partners Assistance Dogs go to www.ppadi.org.
Once the service dog is selected, Smith will sell some of the remaining pups through her business. She can be reached through www.sundanceshepherds.com or 457-1480.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.
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